Tao Te Cha-Ching: A Taoist Approach to Handicapping, Part 5

Experiencing the Ups and Downs

Bettors win and bettors lose. It’s part of the game. In fact, it is the game. Winning and losing ultimately define the betting experience. I preach a focus on the process, but even the process is designed to lead to results. And those results come and go in short samples.

Having the right attitude towards winning and losing is important. When I win, I really enjoy it. We only get one life and that makes it precious. If we spend our best moments trying to escape the emotion then we miss out on our best moments.

But winning is not everything. When I win because I made a good read I feel proud of myself. When I win due to luck, I feel grateful. When I have a winning week I get to drink some expensive whiskey I reserve for those moments. But then I go to sleep, I wake up, and it’s back to work. One win does not guarantee another.

Nobody wants to talk about losing, but it happens to the best bettors in the world. Being prepared, and having the right attitude, is key. This is made possible by disciplined bankroll management. When your risk allocation on every bet is appropriate, losses – even a swing of them – do not make a significant financial impact.

But the money isn’t the most difficult aspect of losing for some. Originators try to beat betting markets by making their own numbers and betting where they see value relative to the market consensus. This can be tough psychologically because there is not an external, objective source of truth that can be used to validate an originator’s process. Even originators who rely on massive amounts of past data points that have been back-tested have to make assumptions about the connection between those past data points and future events that cannot actually be validated. 

Closing line value can be used generally, but every originator who succeeds at the highest level will find spots where they see value even relative to the closing line. At that point, the only external measurement of success is winning. But it takes thousands of bets to prove success over a statistically significant sample size. I only bet NFL, so that will take a while.

So I am left with my process and my limited history. I believe in the process and know my track record. It gives me confidence. But I am not so overconfident that I can just shrug off losses as variance that will certainly correct itself. That makes losing psychologically difficult, even in the context of winning overall. I will always question my perception of the edge I hold.

So I won’t sugar-coat it. I feel the losses. It impacts my mood and my confidence, even in areas unrelated to betting. Then my cruel mind can even throw on some guilt on top of the negative emotion for letting myself get impacted by the short-term results of predictions I am making on a highly volatile game. These emotions are inevitable and acceptable. But I want to be defined by how I react to these emotions.

My best strategy is to remind myself of what is most important in my life and to remember that all emotion is temporary. I don’t want to avoid the emotion. I want to experience it and recognize its temporary nature. I take a deep breath and try to remind myself what matters most: my wife and best friend, our precious cat, our family and friends, and the experiences we get to have together. That’s it. 

Then, when a new day dawns, I can process, learn, grow, and start putting together the next steps in my journey. Without fail, the negative emotion passes. This is the balance that I seek. I want to enjoy the wins and learn from the losses. Easily said, but not easily done.  It is what I strive for when experiencing the ups and downs of this journey.

If you’re still reading this, then you must relate to some of these thoughts. If you have approaches or methods for handling the ups and downs, I’d love to hear it. My email is always open (josiah@sharpclarke.com) and so are my Twitter DMs (@sharpclarkenfl). Sometimes it’s nice to share in the experience with others and remember we are not alone. Either way, thanks for taking time out of your day to read my thoughts.

4 thoughts on “Tao Te Cha-Ching: A Taoist Approach to Handicapping, Part 5”

  1. Great post Josiah! The part I identified with the most was your quote about not avoiding emotion, but experiencing it, while also recognizing that the emotions will be temporary. The reason I bet on sports is because of my love for sports and statistics. Win or lose, I enjoy the emotions of the few games I am able to watch. I enjoy the wins that validate my opinions and thought process. I enjoy the losses when I am able to learn something from them. Never too high, never too low, I enjoy experiencing the wide range of emotions of sportsbetting, and am thankful for the opportunity to make some money from the things I am most passionate in life. BOL this weekend.

    – Taylor Chan

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